Thursday, March 21, 2013

Flexible Rules


Apparently, Winter was not impressed with my poetic welcome to Spring yesterday. I imagine it flexing its muscle with a tough guy “Oh, yeah?!” posturing and dropping snow on the first day of Spring with a "Whatcha gonna do about it?!" atittude. What do calendar days mean to a weather front? Apparently, not much. The Vernal Equinox is but a mere suggestion and Winter is well within its rights to hang on for a bit longer. Maybe even for two months, if its pleases. I’ve heard tell of snow in Salzburg in May.

After all these years coming to Austria and Germany, I found out something new this trip. Retirement is a fixed age and if you think you’d like to work past it, well, too bad. You can’t. Maybe be a consultant or teach a short summer course, but when your birthday hits, the number decides for you. The rule is fixed. (Though with some flexibility as it recently was raised in Germany—I think from 65 to 67).

Today was my last class of my special two weeks with the Special Course. How I loved it! All of it! If this was my full time job, the rules would dictate just a few more years. What a shame that would be. I have more energy than I ever have had and hopefully with something more polished and deepened to offer. Why send me off to the pasture because of a number? Well, luckily no such rule exists at my school and while some might wish it— especially in my case!—I’m ready to follow the lead of my Zen teacher and keep teaching until I’m 106. Then maybe take a short break and take up lawn bowling.

In today’s class, we reviewed the simple curriculum I’ve helped develop for preschool through elementary and middle school and time and again, I kept accenting, “These are flexible guidelines, not fixed rules. You’re welcome to break them, but be prepared to defend your choice. Like when you all just performed your arrangements on Orff instruments. Some broke the rules I set forth, but they sounded interesting to my ear (following my Duke Ellington criteria—‘if it sounds good, it is good!’)."

So whether you’re a stubborn Winter God getting in your last licks past your appointed deadline, a stubborn music teacher wanting to go beyond the recommended retirement age or a musician straying outside the tried-and-true, rules are meant to guide, not limit. If followed to the letter, life is predictably boring. If abandoned altogether, life is just a bit too chaotic for our taste. Know the rules, use them, know when to break them, make up a few of your own.

But Winter, stay the hell out of Florida! I’m ready for some beach time in two days!

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